Patek Philippe
January 2023

Discovering platinum: history and curiosities

More precious than gold, platinum never ceases to be the focus of attention and desires of many jewellery enthusiasts. On the contrary: in recent years, platinum has gradually gained more and more interest, precisely because of certain characteristics that make it even better than gold in many respects. Today, therefore, let’s take a look at the peculiarities of this precious metal, starting with its composition, history and strengths

Platinum: what the name means and how it is made

In the West, platinum, compared to gold has a rather recent history. But some populations have mined and used this precious metal for a long time: we are talking about the Incas, across the ocean. It is therefore not surprising that it was the Conquistadors, those Spanish adventurers who set off to conquer the Americas on several occasions, who imported platinum to Europe. At first glance, however, this new metal did not particularly impress the Spaniards, who not surprisingly chose to call it ‘platina’ or ‘little silver’, already underlining with this name the little value they recognised in the discovery.
It was then the French who ‘discovered’ the unique characteristics of platinum in the 17th century: we speak of the very rich court of Versailles, where pomp reigned supreme. From year to year, given the favour of the rulers themselves as well as the nobles who populated the court, platinum became more and more central, eventually becoming the only precious metal worthy of Louis XIV, who went down in history as the Sun King.

Where platinum is found

Platinum is a rare metal, much rarer than gold: consider that 150 tonnes of platinum are mined annually, compared to 1,500 tonnes of gold. This precious metal is found both in its native state and alloyed together with iridium. It is well known that about three quarters of the world’s platinum is found in South Africa; far behind, Russia is the second largest producer of platinum, followed by North America.

The characteristics of platinum

The colour of platinum is well known: it is a silvery-yellow, decidedly lustrous metal. Ductile and malleable, it is not altered by either water or air and is as resistant as gold to processes such as tarnishing and corrosion.
Those considering the purchase of platinum jewellery should also be aware that this metal is by nature hypoallergenic, and that it retains its colour steadily over time, without fading or discolouration. Certainly small scratches, signs of normal wear and tear of the jewellery – typical for example on rings and wedding rings – can slightly affect this metal, but without affecting its beauty, on the contrary, giving a natural and uniform finish to the jewel. However, cleaning and finishing the jewellery to bring it back to its original state is by no means excluded.

Gold and platinum: the differences

It has been observed that platinum is rarer than gold. Generally speaking, it is possible to confuse platinum with white gold at first glance. But in reality platinum has a more silvery, and in any case less opaque, finish. It must also be said that white gold has the disadvantage of discolouration towards yellow, as well as the necessary plating; platinum, on the other hand, requires no plating, and does not fear discolouration.
And again, it must be said that typical 18k gold has a purity level of 75%, whereas platinum used in jewellery is generally 95% pure.

Discovering platinum: history and curiosities
Discovering platinum: history and curiosities

Platinum jewellery

The characteristics of platinum and its value make it a perfect material for the art of jewellery making: thanks to its peculiarities, for example, platinum is a perfect protection for jewellery enriched with diamonds. The fact of dealing with a precious metal that does not fade over time – and therefore lasts forever – leads many people to choose platinum as the material for wedding rings and engagement rings. Also not to be underestimated is the fact that platinum is more easily sized than gold.

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